I am a woman, a sister, a mother, a widow, a grandmother, a nurse, a writer, a neighbor, a friend, a knitter, a letter writer, an encourager, a pianist, a singer, and a Child of God.
I am also struggling with Depression.
As I write this, I am doing quite well; but my life has been and will continue to be a battle against the Deadly D’s: disappointment, discouragement, disillusionment, doubt, depression, disorganization, dissociation, defeat, despondency, disability.
I am in good company though. In the article “Overview of Clinical Depression,” David Joffe stated: “Depression is a condition some of us may confront on a daily basis, but for others, it may come and go. There is a link between depression and creativity that has been observed for a long time … many famous artists who lived in the past strongly displayed symptoms of depression, with some of the more well known of these cases being Vincent van Gogh, Sylvia Plath and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart … Edgar Allen Poe, Lord Byron, William Blake, John Keats, TS Elliot, Mark Twain, Noel Coward, George Frederic Handel, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill.”
My favorite poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, author Patricia Cornwell, former President Calvin Coolidge, political humorist Art Buchwald, former First Lady Barbara Bush, and nurse Florence Nightingale join Biblical King Nebuchadnezzer in the battle against depression.
If you or someone you care about has depression, I want to encourage you for I know that depression can be controlled. Many wonderful things have resulted through people working through their depression.
Picture a downward spiral. As the traits on my Deadly D’s list rush down that spiral of uncontrolled feelings, they increase in severity to the point of death- either the desire for death or actual death.
Depression is like a dark cloud wrapping itself around you until you’re unable to see reality and you’re unable to do normal everyday activities. It is insidious; it creeps up slowly and aims to control your life. It can be situational- a response to losses such as the death of a loved one; a job; a terminal or serious illness; a broken relationship; a tragedy like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina; a fire; war; even financial problems. Anything with a potential negative outcome or a life-changing event can lead to depression. Some women go through depression after the birth of a baby probably due to hormonal changes, even though it’s a happy outcome. Men can get depressed after they retire and no longer have a focus or purpose. In some cases, the cause is unknown.
In Scripture, Moses, David, and Elijah, a prophet of God, experienced depression. In I Kings 19, Elijah’s life was threatened by the queen after he performed miracles. Scared, he ran away and told God he wanted to die. Depression is not a respecter of persons. Young, old, man, woman, rich, poor, anyone can develop depression.
For sure, it is not due to the sin in one’s life or we would all be depressed. Please note also that our feelings are not sinful; God gave us our emotions.
I like to think of our emotions as a barometer. When the weather changes it affects the barometric readings, which help us to predict the weather in the next hours or days. Our emotions or feelings can be predictors also, when we are attuned to them. When we act on those feelings, sin can happen. For instance, guilt, fatigue, failure, embarrassment, and rejection- real or perceived- can lead to frustration, which grows into anger. Reacting in anger is where sin enters the scenario.
We all experience the blahs, the blues, the down-in-the-dumps, and pity party times. But depression that lasts more than two weeks usually requires treatment from a professional mental health provider. There are thousands of books written on depression, and you’ll find some internet resources at the end of this article; but my purpose in writing this, is to help you know how to help a friend, family member, or yourself cope with depression. I will share with you techniques that have work for me.
I know depression from three points of view. First, from my own experience with depression; second as a mental health nurse caring for people with depression, and third as a victim—three of my family members died taking their own lives.
A number of years ago as I sat across from a psychiatrist during my third visit, he told me that he never had a patient that understood her depression like I did. It wasn’t always that way. I have learned much along this journey. Maybe, what I learned will help you.
First, you must recognize the symptoms of depression. Second, you must seek treatment. Third, when you’re able, you need to educate those around you about depression.
In part two, we’ll look at the symptoms and when to seek help.